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Charles Crawford: The physics of diplomacy

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Right. (Polish) [Ladies and Gentlemen], (Laughter) This isn't fair. (Laughter) Because most of you are Polish, a lot of the speakers are Polish, and you have to speak in English. So I want to try and put things right a bit. (Laughter) I have to read this out, sorry. (Polish) [It's a real pleasure being in Cracow again]. (Applause) (Polish) [Cracow is, of course, a very intelligent city]. (Laughter) (Polish) [It's the only place I know where soccer fans] (Polish) [have banners for their teams with Latin on them]. (Laughter) (Applause) (Polish) [I would very much like to do this talk in Polish], (Polish) [but it seems that the organizers] (Polish) [think that people following TED online] (Polish) [in various places in the world don't speak Polish]. (Laughter) (Polish) [So unfortunately, I have to speak English. What can I do?] (Laughter) (Applause) For the English people here [whose] Polish isn't quite yet up to it, I was just saying Cracow is the smartest place in the world -- it's the only place where football supporters have banners in Latin. (Laughter) Right. You know, at the beginning everyone said, "Turn off the mobile phones"? Let me just tell you one little story about that. I did a concert at a residence for some Mozart musicians from the UK, and a senior delegation of Polish guests, about a 100 or so people, including Maria Kaczyńska. And I said at the beginning, "Listen, folks. There are two sorts of people in the world. Those who turn off their mobile phones during concerts, and everyone else." (Laughter) They all got out and turned off their mobile phones. Anyway, got to a really quiet bit, and all of a sudden -- (Makes telephone sound) And it was Maria Kaczyńska. And -- (Laughter) And she was a wonderful lady. I mean, I don't know how many of you ever met her. I'm sure a lot of people here in this room knew people who were on the Smolensk plane. I knew 25 people on the plane. And I was watching it all from the UK, you know, the ceremonies and so on, and I think, if I can say so, you Polish people did a wonderful job in very difficult circumstances. Right. Let's start at the beginning. The theme of this conference is "Texting the Dragon," modernity and tradition, that's the, sort of, sense of it all. So let's go back to the beginning. Aesop. Aesop wrote Aesop's Fables. You know, "The Fox and the Grapes," all this stuff. You probably don't know Aesop was an ambassador. He was sent by king Croesus to Delphi., to pay tribute to the people of Delphi. And he handed out gold coins to the people of Delphi. And they were ungrateful. They either thought he was cheating on his expenses, or they thought he wasn't giving enough gold coins. So they threw him off a cliff. (Laughter) And on the way way down, they discovered a very important physical formula. (Laughter) Now, for poor Aesop, his velocity was in fact terminal. But this is the formula which explains when something's falling, how it reaches top speed. What's diplomacy? What do I spend my life doing? Delivering messages. Negotiation. And both these things are about expressing power. Power. Who's got power, who's not. Who's up, who down. As our friends in Moscow would say, "kto kovo." (Laughter) This lady, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Now, Paul Dzialynski, Polish ambassador, just arrived from the king of Poland, came in to see her. All the nobles were there, she welcomed him with great pomp and ceremony. And he basically made a speech saying the king of Poland was not very happy. (Polish) ["To complain"], you know. (Laughter) I was saying to someone last night, actually, Polish is the only language I've learnt -- I've learnt a bit of French, German, Spanish, Russian, Latin, Polish, Serbian, Afrikaans. Polish is the only language in the world where you learn "to complain" on the first page of the book. (Laughter) (Applause) Anyway, representing his country, he complains. He said, "Listen, the king of Poland is not very happy, Your Majesty, because you are fighting with the king of Spain, and that is upsetting trade with Poland." Anyway, Queen Elizabeth was made of pretty stern stuff. So she gave the most famous ever reply by an English king or queen in Latin. I can't even read that out, but the gist of it is, "How I have been deceived! I was expecting a diplomatic mission, buy you brought me a quarrel." (Laughter) "Never in my life have I heard such audacity. I marvel, indeed I marvel at so great and such unprecedented impertinence in public." (Laughter) And she said this to the ambassador in Latin. Pretty good. (Laughter) So, you get diplomatic car crashes. What's the point about a car crash? What's the physics of a car crash? When a car crashes into a wall, it stops. The car is exerting force against the wall, and the wall is exerting force against the car. A lot of force. Now, some of you will know what this equation is. Who knows what this equation is? Here. Yeah? (Audience) Kinetic energy. Charles Crawford: Kinetic energy. Who didn't know that? (Laughter) There's a lot of liars in this room. (Laughter) This is the formula for kinetic energy. And what it is -- I need my little pointer thing here. Kinetic energy equals half of mass times velocity squared. Mass over two, times velocity squared. You've got a bomb, half a kilogram, traveling that fast. Half of that is 250,000 Joules of energy. Double the mass, double the energy. Make this four times as fast, the same speed -- the same weight, rather. And you get 16 times as much energy. So velocity makes a big difference. More velocity makes more difference than mass does, in terms of making an impact. Which is why, if I was bowling a ball at bowling pins, you know, ten-pin bowling -- If I bowl the ball, I'll knock them over. If I shoot at them, the bullet will go right through the ten pins. Much smaller, much less heavy, much more velocity. Lots of historical examples of velocity. Agincourt -- small, English, fast arrows against big, heavy, French knights. (Laughter) This is a wonderful example of velocity. King Sobieski, with a troop of cavalrymen, attacked the whole [Turkish] army. Very fast. Saved Europe. Invented the croissant. Very good news! (Laughter) (Laughter) (Applause) (Laughter) For a long time, last 200 years or so, since we started inventing machines, we've thought that bigger is better. What's happening here? "The Age of Mass (and the Masses)." The "masses," the very words we use, in English at least, convey this idea. Remember "Metropolis"? Who's seen "Metropolis" here? Everyone's seen "Metropolis." That guy, sort of, you know, doing this, keeping the machine going. They're the masses, coming in and out of their shift. "Mass production." "Mass meetings." "Mass participation" -- that's normally seen as quite good. "Mass movements" -- normally, sort of seen as quite good. On the other hand, a bit of "mass" there which isn't quite so good. [Slide: Weapons of Mass Destruction] "Bigger is better." Big machines, big corporations, Big Oil, Big Pharma. Central planning, Big Government. That's what we've got now, Big Government. The Russian Revolution invented really big government. And you know what happened to that idea? Who's heard of "the consumption of surplus value"? The Marxist Theory of Surplus Value, how capitalists consume surplus value. This is how surplus value was, 300 kilometers from here, about 80-90 years ago. Cannibalism in the Ukraine. Caused by communism. That's how you consume surplus value under communism. Led to this. The most famous cartoon in English history, probably. I don't know if you can read this, but it's -- "The scum of the Earth, I believe," says Hitler. "The bloody assassin of the workers," said Stalin. And there's Poland. And it led to this. The idea that we should do things together, in a very big way. And now, in America it's leading to this, a reaction against Big Government. "That's my future you're $pending." "You are not entitled to what I earn." These are very profound messages about our attitude to the past and the future. We've heard about this with some speakers talking about agriculture, environment, the world we inherit. Well then, hey, it's not a good idea to spoil the environment so our children, our grandchildren, are left with nothing. But maybe it's also not a good idea to borrow money from your great-grandchildren when they haven't even been born, to pay for consumption now. Very complex. Sorry, I missed a slide there. What's the kinetic energy of foreign policy? A light, fast, targeted move, or a slow, heavy one? Who's Baroness Ashton? [Slide: "Europe needs the External Action Service to build a stronger foreign policy"] You can read that. What's wrong with that? There's so much wrong with that. I'm saying this not as an anti-European, I'm saying this as a European person who wants Europe to be efficient. There is so much wrong with that sentence. "Stronger foreign policy." What does that mean? It means we haven't got one now. Why doesn't she say, "I want to build a strong foreign policy." "I want to build a stronger one." Stronger than what? I mean, such a strange thing to say. What's "strong"? Let's assume we want to have a strong foreign policy. How would we know it if we saw one? (Laughter) That's one way of being strong. And these guys, in different ways, are big, and they have attitude. These are all individual countries. These countries are not getting strength by cuddling up together with their neighbors. They're getting strong by saying, "Hell, we know who we are. We don't need to gang up together to be strong. We're strong because we're strong." Look at this thing. Stag beetles. Very strong. Very tiny. There's physical reasons why, as we get bigger, strength changes in our bodies. Reasons of physics. You can be strong by being very good at being very small. These are all examples of foreign policy places who in different ways thrive by being small. Look at Montenegro the other day at Wembley, that was a pretty good effort. Vatican -- small. A bit like the slide of Google and General Motors. Vatican's Google. Very small base, big followers. (Laughter) Island states in the climate change debate. Very good at leveraging their position. Pirates and warlords -- very small, very fast-moving, high velocity. You can be strong by just saying "no." "We don't want to do what you say, go away. Doesn't matter what you do, get lost." Iran and North Korea. "Not interested, thank you very much. Hop it." (Laughter) Greece, in the EU, and its dispute with Macedonia over the name, a strange dispute that's been going on for ages. Greece just says "no." That's it. (Laughter) You can be strong by sort of keeping away from things. You don't have to be in things to be strong. Norway's quite strong, very efficient in terms of coming up with international initiatives, because it's not part of anything. (Laughter) I mean, it's true, they're free, they have their money, they decide to spend it on what they want. They can do things with their money. If Norway was in the EU, it couldn't do things with its money anymore. Syria, another example Now, do you know what a blob is, like a very big blob? (Laughter) (Laughter) The EU is strong because it's just sort of big, and it sits there. It's not strong in any of those other ways. It has a sort of presence almost by not moving very much. It has a certain strength. And that's not necessarily always bad. But it does reduce velocity, massively. And so, you get reduced impact. If you reduce velocity and increase the mass, it's the worst possible combination. So the EU talks to itself. At the UN, EU ambassadors talk to each other too much. They don't talk to the other countries of the world. A thousand coordination meetings, most of which are a complete waste of time. It's an extraordinarily bad use of your taxpayers' money. And this is the European Council on Foreign Relations saying, they're great fans of the EU. "Exhaustive, defensive, detached from real diplomacy." It's 14:27, 28, 29 -- I've got 3 minutes left. EU blames others for great failure, on climate. Look what happened. We actually had the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, down the road. What happened? Who was there at the final meeting? President Obama, the President of China, South Africa, Brazil, India. Was that about it, I think? We weren't even invited to our own meeting. (Laughter) And we were paying for it! (Laughter) Lavishly. I mean, we really were. It's the extraordinary defeat, it's a symbolic defeat of enormous proportions. And so, there, you have velocity - one, mass - nil. These guys cut a deal. It didn't say very much, they just wrote something on a piece of paper, said, "Thank you very much, here's the deal, world. Goodbye, we're going home." And the Europeans were sort of, "What was all that about? We missed it." (Laughter) And it's a triumph of relative agility over process. Mass isn't all bad, don't get me wrong. If you're dealing with a problem which is very difficult to shift quickly, such as the process of coming out of communism in the former Soviet Union, it's difficult. You have to set a slow, steady example. And so, gradually, Europeanization, the values of Europe, are coming into Belarus, they're coming into Ukraine, they're coming into Russia, they're coming into the CIS. But it's slow, it's very slow work. You cannot do it quickly. Georgia. Well, you know, what was the result there? I mean, you had the EU being very involved in it, but the net result was Abkhazia, South Ossetia, effectively cut off. Another defeat, I'd say. Will EU diplomacy survive, will the EU survive? Poland is a country which loves the EU. Quite right, too. Will there be an EU in 50 million years' time? No. (Laughter) 5 million years' time? No. 50,000 years' time? No. 5,000 years' time? No, it won't exist. 500 years' time? No, it won't exist. 50 years? Maybe. (Laughter) Maybe it will exist. 5 years' time? [Slide: Probably]. (Laughter) (Laughter) The point is, the European financial system is on a knife edge. If Greece goes down, French, German, Spanish, blah-blah-blah banks go down. The EU as we know it could end next week, really could. Probably won't, but it could. (Laughter) The "Age of Big, Slow Things" is ending. The "Age of Smaller, Faster-moving Things." You know, think of the masses, think of the mass demonstrations at Nuremberg. Well, the people are forced to be there, in a way. They're sort of organized. And think of the mass which has come out of this conference. People networking in a very free way, spontaneous way, doing what Richard Lucas was talking about. Totally different form of mass organization, based upon freedom -- that's the way to bet. You need mass, but velocity is the smart way to bet. European diplomacy can't work in its current form. It can't even be effective in theory. Why? Because it's the law of physics. If I drop this on the floor -- (Remote hits the floor) You can't argue with that. I may have to buy a new one now. (Laughter) It's the law of physics. It's reality. Ayn Rand: "We can evade reality. [But] we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality." (Laughter) (Polish) [Thank you very much]. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 20 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 534
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 14, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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